BIC Realtime

Page last updated 14th January 2019

Welcome to BIC Realtime
Standards for Instant Business Message Exchange

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About BIC Realtime - Executive Summary
(For business leaders and non-technical staff)
BIC Realtime
establishes a set of standard messages to enable computers to communicate with each other via the internet in real time requesting information and receiving an immediate response. This is for virtually all book businesses which hold databases of information (e.g. distributors, wholesalers and data providers) which could be of use to their trading partners (e.g. booksellers). The book trade is very familiar with EDI (Electronic Data Interchange) and the advantages of exchanging business messages electronically. But EDI is usually a batch transaction rather than a real time transaction. Now using XML communication over the Internet, businesses can communicate much more quickly, obtaining real time replies to their requests. This standard is recommended by BIC as the best way to implement these new messages between book businesses. 

BIC is not suggesting that longstanding and highly effective EDI implementations should be replaced by BIC Realtime but that existing capabilities can be significantly enhanced by implementing these additional messages. In addition new implementations should consider using the BIC Realtime API’s as a modern, cost effective standards based alternative to EDI. For example, booksellers could find out the latest price and availability information, request a list of back orders and cancel what they no longer need, request a list of invoices and a specific copy invoice, and an online bookseller can implement a change of customer address details with a fulfilment agent and send a notification to release a CDF (consumer direct fulfilment) order to this customer. These transactions are currently only possible by telephone or email and they are slow and expensive for both partners. BIC Realtime enables businesses to outsource this information request and response, to a computer system instead of its customer services and credit control departments etc. A panel of book industry experts has overseen this development and the result is BIC Realtime, a suite of standard messages which are ready for implementation. Case study coming soon.

BIC Realtime Introduction
(For technical management and staff)
BIC Realtime
is a suite of API's designed by and for the book industry and covering a range of business requirements. The BIC Realtime standard details the API formats and their data fields and effectively provides a template for organisations wishing to share this data with their trading partners. Database holders can deploy BIC Realtime to enable their trading partners to request this information and receive an immediate response. This will improve their customer service and reduce costs, for example by reducing the number of calls and emails requesting a copy of financial documents or to release or cancel backorders – these functions are effectively outsourced to the computer system to deliver to customers via a BIC Realtime API. Giving customers access to this data in real time eliminates issues and costs caused by daily or weekly batch updates which are out of date as soon as they are produced. This BIC Realtime web service documents (listed in the Table of Contents, below) contain links to a WSDL Definition for the SOAP protocol version of each message pair and an XML schema for Request and Response payloads in XML format. An Introductory User Guide and an Implementation Guide will be coming soon.   

BIC Realtime – List of currently available APIs
Here is the full list of BIC Realtime business messages:
Note that each message is always a pair - a request message followed by a response message - which contains the requested information or in some cases a functional response to acknowledge the request.

Product Metadata APIs

1. Retrieve ONIX Product Information
2. ONIX Product Information Acknowledgement (acknowledges an ONIX feed and reports the result)
3. Retrieve MARC Product Information (requests a MARC metadata record) 
4. Retrieve Price & Availability (requests price and availability information)

Ordering APIs

5. Trade Order Request and Response (places a trade purchase order) 
6. Retrieve Order List (obtains a list of orders, e.g. dues)
7. Order Status Request and Report (requests status of an order) 
8. Request Order Cancellation (cancels an order, e.g. from backorders/dues)
9. Request Backorder Release (asks for backorders to be released for supply)
10. Short Pick Notification (notifies recipient of a shortage/zero pick)

Financial documents APIs

11. Retrieve Financial Document List (requests a list of financial documents, e.g. invoices)
12. Retrieve Financial Document (requests a copy of a specific financial document) 
13. Post Financial Document (sends a financial document, e.g. invoice)

Returns APIs
If you are implementing returns using BIC Realtime then you must implement both 'Returns Authorisation and Despatch' (14) and 'Post Authorised Returns Advice' (15), below.

14. Returns Request and Authorisation (requests permission to return books)
15. Post Authorised Returns Advice (states what is and is not actually being returned)

Consumer Direct Fulfilment APIs

16. CDF Order Request and Response (an order for a direct delivery to a customer)
17. Order Shipment Details Change (enables changes to a CDF order, e.g. customer delivery address)
18. CDF Request Authorisation to Despatch Order (asks if order can be despatched)
19. CDF Grant Authorisation to despatch order (asks for order to be despatched)

EDI has benefited the book industry for many years with messages including purchase order, order response, invoice, credit note and returns, but trading partners have found that they need to exchange additional information in real time. Proprietary and bilateral XML Web Services were developed by some but these carried an increasing administrative overhead as they proliferated. The term, 'Web Services' is also often confused with online services via web sites. BIC has assembled a Working Group of industry experts who have reviewed the existing suite of BIC web services, updated them, added many additional message pairs as requested by members and now BIC can offer the industry a single, free to use, suite of XML messages (APIs) covering all the main requirements. These messages are called BIC Realtime

Why use BIC Realtime?

BIC Realtime is a suite of 19 standard business APIs:

  • Human readable XML is easily understood 
  • Quick to install and test
  • Far quicker and cheaper for 'message requester' to test and use
  • Covers new business functions not addressed by existing EDI solutions


Exchanging crucial information in real time with trading partners enables:

  • more automation
  • reduced costs in customer services, credit control etc.
  • better informed customers
  • more orders
  • more accurate service
  • more efficient transactions
  • closer relationship with trading partners


BIC Realtime has been developed by the BIC Realtime Task & Finish Working Group, which reports to the BIC Physical Supply Chain Committee. Further information about this Committee and the Groups that are under its remit can be found here.

A BIC Bite on BIC Realtime is available here.


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